Most people love animals. Some people love dogs, others love cats. Some love rabbits, others love hamsters or guinea pigs. I love dogs, of course, but right up there with dogs, I love donkeys. Burros. Asses.
Donkeys are given a little bit of a bad rap, reputation-wise. They're seen as stubborn and intractable, and people are called asses who behave in a bad manner. There's even an anatomical orifice bestowed in popular jargon with the name ass that shouldn't have ANY connection with donkeys, but language is what we make it.
Donkeys' perceived stubbornness is actually their intellect shining through. No donkey will do anything asked of it before the subject is looked at from every angle. When the donkey deems it safe, then the task will be performed, and not before. An old saying goes "You tell a horse what to do, you bargain with a mule, but you ask a donkey."
For the most part, donkeys are quiet and long-suffering animals. They will put up with poor conditions and continue to thrive. Or at least appear to. Donkeys are notoriously difficult for vets to diagnose and treat, unless they have put in many years of specialization with the animals. A donkey rescue veterinarian put it this way: "They internalize pain, bow their heads, grin and bear, and often do nothing that outwardly shows their stress. Horses buck up, rear, kick and make a grand fuss if they're in pain. With a donkey it's the complete opposite."1
Donkeys emotional pain is just as subtle. When they lose a companion or special friend they grieve. Donkeys bond very strongly with other donkeys, and even other animals, as well as humans. If their companion should suddenly die or otherwise be removed from the donkey's life, the survivor enters a period of mourning that can last for weeks. If they are especially confused about the loss, they can enter into a deep depression, and even die themselves.
I think that's why the article below touched me so deeply when I read it the first time. We can learn a lot from donkeys. We can learn patience, hard work, and the importance of emotions and relationships from them. The article demonstrates the depth of emotion that is common to donkeys as a species, and it makes me wish I had been able to meet Yaquie.
This article is transcribed from Wild Burro Watch; An Educational Publication of Wild Burro Rescue, Vol. 1, Issue 1, January 2002. The Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project is located in Olancha, California, and is dedicated to rescuing feral burros removed from National Park Service and BLM lands in eastern California and Nevada. Contact Diana Chontos for more information: email@example.com
Yaquie...Ancient Desert Shaman
by Kris K. Mann
The 2000 Death Valley rescue brought to us a special elder burro whom we named Yaquie. The first day at the holding facility he watched everything. The following morning he walked right up to us as if to introduce himself. All of the rescued Jacks, young and old respected this old, old soul and no one ever chased him from food or water. He loved to be brushed and hugged and appreciated the special diet of senior feed, vitamins and grated carrots we formulated for him since his teeth were nearly gone.
We were blessed with his unique spirit for several months before he began to grow weak. For several more weeks we had to help him back to his feet when he wanted to get up from his naps but could not find the strength to do it on his own. Then one day he could no longer stand without assistance so we lay him gently back to the ground. Knowing he could not last much longer we rigged a blanket for shade and called the veterinarian to ease his passing.
This sad and difficult time was suddenly transformed when one by one all thirty-two jacks in the corral came by, touched Yaquie someplace on his body, then walked back to their hay. Shortly after the last jack paid his respect, Yaquie took a deep breath and flew away with the angels. The veterinarian arrived shortly after and determined Yaquie to be the oldest equine he had ever seen, 50+.
A teacher had come from the desert and those he touched were changed forever. Thank you Yaquie.
1. Merrifield, Andy. The Wisdom of Donkeys; Finding tranquility in a chaotic world P. 92. Bloomsbury USA, New York, NY, 2008.